We stress about the holidays for weeks if not months, worried about meals and gifts and travel, but how often do we think about how our choices will affect the Earth?
About six years ago, I fell down the sustainability rabbit hole, or as I like to say, I became "Alison In Wonderland," nearly paralyzed by every choice I make. Over time I've learned how to turn that paralysis into proactivity, and there's no better time to practice it than during Christmas.
I stopped buying material gifts for my friends and family. Instead, I donate to non-profits like Orphan Relief and Rescue, an organization that saves children from the slave trade and corrupt African orphanages, as well as Vision House, a ministry for homeless families. This year I will gift a few fish through Long Live the Kings' "Survive the Sound" program, which promotes salmon and steelhead recovery.
The fashion industry is the second worst polluter next to oil. Clothing production often requires a lot of water, fossil fuels and chemical run-off. If you're intent on buying new clothes, try to find sustainable designers. I shop at Goodwill for great deals, and recycled clothing is the best way to reduce our fashion footprint on the environment. Most insiders say an item of clothing should be worn 30 times for it to be considered a sustainable item.
Another option for gifts is shopping at fair trade stores like Fair Trade Winds in Ballard and Ten Thousand Villages in the University District. Of The Earth in Seattle makes sustainable products like gift bags, cards and ribbons. Many of their paper products have wildflower seeds embedded in the paper, and once the gift is unwrapped, the paper can be planted to grow flowers.
You can also gift an experience. REI has a variety of outdoor adventures available for presents. This year, I bought my husband a 3-day lift ticket to snowboard.
Finally, what we eat during those holiday meals touches all kinds of environmental advocacy avenues. Grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork or chicken is a great option. If you're buying chocolate, check to see if it's fair trade and slavery-free. It's always a great option to look up Community Supported Agriculture and farmer's markets in your area, as buying direct from local farmers is the best way to care for your health, your food, your environment and your local economy.
We live in a global world, with perhaps the greatest opportunity in history to either help or hurt. Often our choices affect people and ecosystems we will never see. Let's gift sustainability this holiday season.